The peace parks process
The concept of the region’s peace parks is as glorious as it is audacious: vast conservation areas that straddle national borders, of sufficient extent to incorporate entire biomes; of sufficient integrity to restore the ancient patterns of diverse ecological communities, and of sufficient vision to reconnect the shared cultures of tribal peoples, dislocated when colonial rulers arbitrarily imposed Africa’s borders.
Southern Africa’s peace parks today incorporate over half of the declared conservation estate in the region. At over a million square kilometres, they rival the combined landmass of France and Spain. These parks are as astounding in their extent as in their natural magnificence, the immense richness of their biodiversity and the importance of their cultural heritage.
The establishment of each peace park or transfrontier conservation area (TFCA) is complex and far-reaching, involving many stakeholders. The typical process involves several distinct phases of activity, which can take many years to achieve. Peace Parks Foundation facilitates each of the development phases, which includes engendering political support, promoting joint planning and management structures, boosting good governance and building capacity, and optimising the delivery pipeline to ensure donor funding finds its way to projects on the ground.
Peace Parks Foundation’s work includes the following aspects:
Peace Parks Foundation’s work includes the following aspects:
Advocacy and political support
Peace Parks Foundation encourages political will and support for a specific peace park and takes the idea through the decision-making processes required to formalise a memorandum of understanding and ultimately a treaty.
The foundation provides planning support to the TFCAs as a whole, as well as for specific components where an individual country requires additional support. The plans include motivation documents to support the initial lobbying for political support in and between the partner countries, integrated development plans that serve as the guideline documents for a TFCA’s development, protected area or park management plans for the components of a TFCA to ensure alignment and broadened understanding, and tourism development plans, strategic business plans and any other plan deemed necessary to attain the objectives of the TFCA.
Peace Parks Foundation assists the TFCA partner countries in identifying key projects, designing project plans and in securing the necessary funds required to implement the project. It also supports the appointment of technical advisers to the partner countries for specific projects. The foundation often acts as project implementation agent for the TFCA partner countries and, in specific circumstances, assists with project implementation, such as contractual project execution and implementation. The projects it undertakes are managed to become self-sufficient, with a focus on building capacity to avoid long-term donor dependency.
The foundation aims to ensure that sufficient funding is available for the operational components of TFCA development, as well as for projects deemed crucial to attain the objectives of the TFCA. Peace Parks Foundation has been successful in securing substantive funding for the region’s TFCAs and in unlocking further and major support from international donor agencies. A core objective of the work is to marshal limited resources to optimise the delivery pipeline, thus ensuring that 100% of donor funding flows through to the projects on the ground.
The professional financial management of the foundation and its reputation for the highest standards of corporate governance have earned it the trust and long-standing support of public and private international financial institutions and governments alike, as an advisory, facilitation, management and administrative partner. The foundation is transparent in accounting for the flow of funds from donors to the projects they have elected to support.
Cutting-edge technology guides Peace Parks Foundation’s approach to planning. The extensive Geographic Information System (GIS) capability developed by the foundation supports planning, monitoring and evaluation of the various programmes and projects. Field staff and students at the Southern African Wildlife College are also trained to use GIS and GPS, as well as monitoring and evaluation systems.
Training towards sustainability
In order to engender the sustainability of the parks, Peace Parks Foundation has been supporting training at two colleges since their inception. The SA College for Tourism was established in 2001 and every year trains 90 young women from impoverished backgrounds on a year-long course that focuses exclusively on developing skills in the hospitality service. Thus equipped, the students are able to return home and find employment within the tourism infrastructure supported by TFCAs. Since 2010, the College also annually trains 16 trackers at its Tracker Academy with the aim of preserving the age-old traditional knowledge and skill of tracking. The Southern African Wildlife College has been training students from across Africa in the essential skills of managing parks and conservation areas since 1997. By the end of the course, students are well versed in planning and leading operational activities, managing people and negotiating with local communities. Many of its graduates have gone on to occupy senior positions in some of the region’s most prominent wildlife areas.
The long-term strategic objective is to promote economic growth and development for local communities living adjacent to the TFCAs, based on the sustainable use of natural resources. This will include the provision of alternative livelihoods, the implementation of viable and sustainable community-based agriculture, conservation and tourism-related projects and securing business opportunities arising. The focus is therefore on improving income and food security as tangible community benefits through partnership-based initiatives.
Combatting Wildlife Crime
The foundation is assisting the region’s governments in combatting wildlife crime. As a first focus, it is working with Mozambique and South Africa to devise strategies to counter rhino poaching in the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park and in the Lubombo TFCA. The programme merges political support with practical programmes aimed at improved law enforcement, joint training for joint operations and reduced demand, as well as awareness campaigns targeting the judicial system and local communities. A further programme focuses on the conservation of southern Africa's leopard.
The Hans Hoheisen Wildlife Research Station, developed by Peace Parks Foundation in partnership with the University of Pretoria and Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency, has developed a dedicated platform for local and international researchers to conduct experimental work on animal diseases and related issues at the transfrontier interface between people, livestock and wildlife.